Friday, August 29, 2014

Busy Week!

Boy, I had a super busy week with a "To Do" list as long as my arm! Still, late today I managed to can some apple sauce.

The applesauce was made from Gala apples (my favorite!). They are super sweet this year. I have 2 bushels sitting in my kitchen right now. When the Winesap apples come in next month I will get one or two more bushels!

Honestly, for about an hour of work, you can't beat homemade apple sauce. (It takes slightly longer than that if you are canning it.) We never purchase store bought applesauce anymore, it is bland and dull. Frankly it is tasteless! The recipe that I use came from page 182 of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. In my opinion, it is the only canning book you should ever need.

Home canning is so rewarding! It is a comfort to me to know that I can grow and preserve my own food! AND make it taste good!  I hope I am making my great-grandmothers proud!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Look At What I Picked Today!

The garden is busy this month, and summer isn't over yet! We have approximately 6 - 8 weeks of good summer weather left!

I must tell you, I am thrilled with my popcorn harvest! Growing popcorn isn't like growing sweet corn (we don't eat sweet corn). It is much easier to grow. It is a 'plant it, and forget it' type of crop. I didn't use any chemicals on it. (Well, I did feed it last month with a chemical fertilizer so technically, I did use chemicals - but the non-organic among us will understand what I mean!) It stayed bug free all season. The husks seem to be wrapped a bit tighter and the corn starts out much harder than sweet corn. No problem with worms at all! Picking it today, I noticed some ants enslaving aphids, but they were not on the ears of corn so I just sprayed them with the hose before I added the stalks to the compost pile.

Tomatoes are everywhere. At first I was thinking I wasn't going to can some sauce but now I am having second thoughts. I have given away so many tomatoes, I don't know what to do with them! Making sauce may be in the works for next month.

Also picked but not in the picture are 1 gallon of green beans and a pint of strawberries. (They didn't fit on the chair!) The strawberries are doing great this year because we are having cooler than normal weather. As a reminder, these are ever bearing strawberries, not June bearing. Ever bearing will produce strawberries all summer long - well into November here in the south.

The green beans will reach peak soon and I am so glad I bought a new canner this year! This canner will work outside on the grill. No electricity needed to pressure can green beans any more!

Watch for a post on how to pressure can foods without electricity next month!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Living Without Electricity: Living Without a Microwave

You may recall that a few months ago my microwave broke. (You can read that post, here.) Now, I don't use the microwave often, but my husband does. We called a repair man to fix it but it was old and beyond repair. So, we started looking to replace it. I don't have a regular microwave, I have an Advantium Oven. Advantium Ovens are more like a microwave/convection oven combination. It speed cooks. For example, it can bake a potato in 10 minutes. A new one costs $1,400.

My microwave may look pretty, but it doesn't work!

When we went to the appliance store to look at one, we realized that not only did we need a new one, but it was going to require a bit of demolition work to get the new one to fit. This is because ours is 14 years old and the new models are about 1 inch bigger. My tile back splash is in the way! Ugh!

We decided to wait. My husband announced that if we can go without a vacuum cleaner, we can go without a microwave for a year! I was all for it! So, we started our journey without a microwave. We don't miss it! As a matter of fact, food tastes better when you don't use the microwave! Not a little better, a lot better! Everything has so much more flavor! Potatoes and vegetables are so good, they don't require all the toppings most people use. (Another plus here is weight control - those toppings are fattening!)

Not having a microwave requires a bit of planning because you can't just defrost something in a few minutes. In addition, it takes a bit more time to cook. How much more planning/time to cook? In my opinion, not enough to notice! A few seconds to pull meat out of the freezer a day or two in advance, 10 to 30 minutes in advance to steam the vegetables on the grill, in the Sun Oven or on the stove. A few minutes in advance to defrost a slice of bread (if the bread isn't on the counter already.) About one to one and a half hours in advance to bake potatoes. 

The biggest difference for us is we must think about what we are going to eat a few days in advance. This is the hardest part. When you are busy, most people don't think about what they are going to eat days in advance. So, we plan out what we are going to eat for the week on Sunday afternoon. Then, on a daily basis, first thing in the morning, I will take out anything that needs to be defrosted.  For example, on Monday, I will take out the meat we will eat on Wednesday. If we are having potatoes that day, I will also pull them out and set them on the counter. (If they are on the kitchen counter, I won't forget to put them in the Sun Oven later in the day.)

I should mention here that I don't think the work involved with cooking takes any additional time. For example, it takes the same amount of time to prepare potatoes for the microwave as it does to prepare them for the Sun Oven. It also takes the same amount of time to prepare vegetables for the microwave as it does to prepare them to be steamed.

Some one at church asked me if I missed my microwave. I answered truthfully, not one bit! Instead, I have decided to store baking pans in mine. This is one appliance that I don't think we will ever replace!

Monday, August 18, 2014

I Have Updated My Blog List

I have added a few new blogs to my blog list. These blogs deal with topics that are near and dear to my heart (and more often then not, themes of my blog posts too!) You should take a look!

The first two are written by the daughter of a friend of mine. Prepare Every Needful Thing and Consecration Acres. The first is a blog that she posts to monthly on Emergency Preparedness. It is written for her ward/congregation (she is the Emergency Preparedness Specialist.) It has all kinds of good information on what you need to do to take care of your family in an emergency of any kind. The second is about her journey with her land. She lives in California on quite a few acres with room to breathe (just what we want to do if we can ever find a piece of land that meets most of our requirements.) I read her journey with fascination, and in anticipation of having my own someday soon. 

The next one is about frugal living and is called Economizing Measures. It is written by a woman who calls herself Ladyhawthorne. She has a few blogs that she posts to regularly. The other one that I follow is called Canterbury Cottage. Economizing Measures has lots of information about how to save money and tighten your budget. Definitely something that is needed today! Ladyhawthorne and I have been commenting on another blog we both read for quite a few years now. She has some really great ideas on how to be frugal!

I read the last one, well, just because! A Modern Day Victorian Lady. I would have fit right in during the Victorian Era! I love reading about the clothes and food of that era. This blog also posts about general lifestyle information of what it was like to live back then. It makes me feel closer to my ancestors.

I hope you find these new blogs as interesting as I do!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Look What I Picked Today!

I am really blessed this year! After my chipmunk and bunny rabbit issues of Spring, my garden has been a haven for me. It is mostly looking after itself now . (I have started a new work project part time that has been taking me away from the garden.) The good news is, I haven't had a need to spray chili pepper powder in weeks! I have more winter squash than I have had in a long time (they aren't ready to pick yet) and the popcorn is almost ready to harvest! 

However, today is about this picture.

These are Granny Smith apples. My husband and I have eaten these for dessert a few times this month. They are much sweeter than the Granny Smith apples you can get at the store! I also have a few more left on the tree. Not bad for a baby tree only 1 1/2 years old!

Next week, I am going to go to our local orchard and purchase our normal 2 bushels of apples to can. Between canning apples, work, zumba, ASL (American Sign Language) classes and the normal work I do around here, I won't know if I am coming or going!

Monday, August 11, 2014

New Ways to Live Frugally

With the price of food going higher and higher these days, it is always a good idea to periodically check for new ideas on how you can make your budget work!

I found a few web sites that offer some new ideas on how to be frugal. This is definitely 'thinking outside the box'! Some of the new ideas that caught my eye:
  • Do routine shopping at the big box stores online instead! Save yourself the gas money and shop at or Walmart offers free shipping if you purchase $50 or more.  All non-refrigerated household items you get on routine shopping trips would work well for this technique. Delivered directly to your door. Can't beat that!
  • Stop buying clothes! Instead, repair the ones you currently own. This may be a hard habit to break in our 'throw away' society. (I do this already but I don't typically see it mentioned when discussing frugal living on other web sites.)
  • Buy over-the-counter medicine on-line! The idea states that can offer cheaper versions of medicine you can purchase over the counter at your favorite store. I am going to have to look into this!
  • Here's one that we did this year at our house. Purchase an Amazon Prime membership. We have saved so much money by purchasing things on-line (with free shipping) instead of making 'special' trips to stores we don't normally go to. Many times the price on is cheaper as well. If it isn't, add it to your Wishlist and wait for the price to drop before you purchase it
Take a look at these websites to see even more ideas!

25 Ways I Save Money  (Scroll down to the bottom of the post for other blogs that post about frugal living.)

I picked up some new ideas I am going to try! I hope you do too!

Friday, August 8, 2014

I Am Speaking In Church This Sunday!

And I am very excited about it! What am I speaking on? Why, Family History of course! In my Church, we don't have a professional clergy. Members of the Priesthood takes turns on leading the ward (congregation). For speakers each week, we all take turns! My topic is The Blessings of Doing Family History Work.

I also have other Church news! Our ward is hosting an Emergency Preparedness Fair in September and I am in charge of a display of Food Storage, and Home Preparations. Home Preparations include Gardening, Home Canning, and Alternative Methods of Cooking in an Emergency. WOW! Am I excited! As you all know, these are some of my favorite topics here on this blog.

I will be sure to keep you updated on the Emergency Preparedness Fair as I work on it and I will take pictures of the actual event. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Skills Your Great-Grandparents Had

I often post about the unique skills our Great-Grandparents had. I believe many of those skills are important to relearn to lead a self sufficient life. I often long for the slower paced, simple life my ancestors had and I try to emulate that where possible in today's world. I have succeeded in certain areas, and need much more work in others!

To help with those skills I lack, I often read about what life was like in past generations. I feel, it brings me closer to my family history.  I really believe I was born in the wrong century and I would have been much more at home in a century of the past!  

If you feel likewise, you may enjoy this article I found! Since my church gave me a free membership to, I have been spending time there in search of ancestors I do not know. One of those searches led me to this article!

I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Do You Know What This Plant Is?

I have been looking for this plant all summer and I can't find it in my area! I am going to look even harder in August because that is when it blooms and it will be easier to spot. This plant is called Thistle and it will make rennet that you can use to make cheese! You can see how to do that here.

I have learned a lot about Thistle this year. One of the disappointing things I have learned is that it only works with goat's milk or sheep's milk. If you use cow's milk, the cheese will turn bitter.

In addition, I now know that there are many different kinds of Thistle. The variety you need to make cheese is called Bull Thistle. It is also know as Scots or Scottish Thistle, Spear Thistle or common Thistle. Here is an article from Wikipedia about it. (The picture above also came from Wikipedia.) The kinds of Thistle you see in your back yard may also be Milk Thistle, Musk Thistle, Sow Thistle, Star Thistle, Golden Thistle or one of many more varieties! The problem for me is, I am not experienced enough to know what I am looking at. The flowers of all of them look the same to me (in the pictures I looked at). Even when I do find a real plant, I am not sure I will know what variety it is!

I have also learned that you can make rennet from the sap of fig trees (our fig tree died from the extreme cold last winter - I have not replaced it),  artichoke flowers, Stinging Nettle or the fronds of yucca plants. Stinging Nettle and the flowers of the artichoke can be used with cow's milk.  

I am going to add looking for Stinging Nettle to my search for Bull Thistle this month. Planting artichokes in my garden may be in my future as well! I will need to do more research on artichokes to see if one variety is better than another for making cheese.

Making cheese from thistle rennet was a goal of mine this year. While I make not achieve that goal, I sure have learned a lot about many different plants that can be used in the cheese making process!

Eventually, I will have success in making cheese from a sustainable rennet source!